Must I Remove My Asbestos Roof or Siding?

As discussed in our last post, many homes, especially those built at the turn of the twentieth century, have siding or roof shingles that contain asbestos. Asbestos has many good qualities, including being durable and fireproof. It also poses many significant health hazards. Is it necessary to remove your asbestos-containing roofing shingles or fiber cement siding to protect your family’s health?


Can I Leave It Alone?

Roofers removing roof tiles

The harmful effects of asbestos occur when someone breathes the tiny, sharp fibers, which irritate and inflame the lungs. If the asbestos is not airborne, it is not a danger. The asbestos in shingles, siding, and other home products is “encapsulated,” that is, surrounded by a coating of something else that keeps it from becoming airborne. If your roof or siding shingles are in good condition, they are unlikely to pose a health hazard to you or your family. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends not disturbing asbestos if at all possible.

Unfortunately, while asbestos home products are durable and long lasting, everything must be replaced eventually. Asbestos was banned in 1989, so as the buildings that incorporated it age, their roofing and siding will fall into disrepair. Many asbestos roofs and siding are damaged, cracked, or broken. Asbestos siding in particular, however, has a tendency to chip, crack, and break with normal wear-and-tear of family life. This can release fibers into the air.

There is no conclusive evidence how much exposure to asbestos contributes to an increase in related health problems. The health problems that have been linked to asbestos, however, can be severe or even fatal. These include cancer of the lungs and the lining of the lungs (mesothelioma) and asbestosis, an inflammation and hardening of the air sacs of the lungs, which makes breathing increasingly difficult.


Can I Install Siding Over It?


Some people attempt to solve the problem of deteriorating asbestos siding by installing vinyl siding over top of it. This practice is not recommended for a number of reasons. First, the siding installation process itself – nailing into the existing boards or tiles – is enough to disturb the existing material and create a dangerous condition. Second, installing vinyl siding over any existing materials, particularly those in poor condition, can lead to additional problems in your home and can hide the development of those problems until they become extremely large and costly to repair.


Can I Have It Repaired?


It is not reasonable to repair most roofs or siding that have suffered significant deterioration or damage. Attempting ordinary maintenance like repairing or replacing individual tiles or shingles, to preserve the overall roof or siding, can create asbestos dust. Pulling off broken shingles or portions and nailing in new material will disturb the existing asbestos. Plus, it is impossible to obtain shingles that are an exact match for the originals, since they are illegal to sell, and creating custom-matched replicas can be costly. As your roof or siding deteriorates, damaged tiles can lead to water infiltration, rot, mold, and structural damage to your home. Roof or siding replacement makes more sense than attempting repairs in most situations involving asbestos shingles or fiber cement siding.


Can I Remove It?


The process of removing asbestos shingles from your roof or siding will disturb the materials and create a hazardous environment. Extra precautions are vital to ensure that the process is done safely and that the dust and debris does not enter your home, creating an ongoing danger for you and your family. Dust can cling to clothing, shoes, and other materials present during removal and pose a continuing risk.

Permits are necessary for the removal of asbestos-containing building materials, frequently with environmental agencies in addition to ordinary city and local building departments. Local and state regulations restrict the disposal of discarded asbestos-containing products, which must be done in a licensed facility and can be expensive. Materials containing as little as 1% asbestos usually are subject to these restrictions.

A professional asbestos abatement team can quickly, legally, and safely remove your existing roof or siding and handle the disposal of this material. Then, you can choose to replace your roof with slate, steel, or asphalt shingles, or your siding with vinyl, asbestos-free fiber cement, or steel. Your new roof or siding will likely not only be safer but also improve the energy-efficiency and appearance of your home.



If you’re unsure whether you should replace your roof or siding, give us a call! We can evaluate the condition and composition of your roof or siding, check for damage, and help you understand your options for siding and roof repair or replacement. Contact Hedrick Construction to schedule your siding or roof inspection today. We can help you with all your Ames area siding and roofing services, including roof replacement, siding replacement, and siding and roofing repair!